Charlene is the daughter of Michael and Lynette Wittstock. She was born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to a family of German, English, South African, and Rhodesian descent. Her family relocated to the Transvaal, South Africa, in 1989 after living in Zimbabwe for several years. She represented South Africa at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, with her team finishing fifth in the Women’s 4×100 m Medley. She retired from competitive swimming in 2007.
Charlene met Prince Albert in 2000 at a swimming event in Monaco. They were first seen together in 2006, and she has accompanied Prince Albert on many of his official duties since then. They announced their engagement in June 2010 and were married on 1 July 2011.